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AMMMusic 1966

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Album Review

The first recording by these pioneers of electro-acoustic improvisation, AMMMusic stands the test of time both as a remarkably prescient session and as an utterly powerful and deep piece of 20th century music. Drummer Eddie Prevost's superb and detailed liner notes document AMM's early history, including the confusion engendered not only in audiences and critics but even in the band members themselves, unsure if they were in a free jazz ensemble, a contemporary classical group, neither, or both. The aphorisms adorning the original LP issue (the disc includes additional portions of the concert) give some indication of what was facing listeners and musicians at the time: "An AMM performance has no beginning or ending. Sounds outside the performance are distinguished from it only by individual sensibility." Or: "Every noise has a note."

Even so, at this early stage in its development, there are more "normal" instrumental sounds with a conceptual basis in either jazz or classical music than there would be later on. Lou Gare's tenor saxophone wrings out occasional avant-garde peals that wouldn't have sounded too out of place in Sun Ra's band of the period, and Prevost's drumming shares some affinities with the energy players of the day. Similarly, Cornelius Cardew's piano and Lawrence Sheaff's cello sometimes refer to this or that modern classical tradition. But the overall sound of the group, even in 1966, was so different, so idiosyncratic, that it's not at all surprising that both new jazz and contemporary classical audiences were baffled, if not horrified. The experimentation in sonic assault, noise, and chance sound (including transistor radios) would, however, reach the rock fringes (as Prevost points out) in the work of '60s bands like Pink Floyd as well as later industrial groups like Test Dept. and the Jesus and Mary Chain. But the palpable thrill of producing such music at the time is unique to AMM. The group's sonic conception in its totality is so enveloping and comprehensive that, once heard, it becomes impossible to hear music the same way again. Recent devotees of electronica, free improv, industrial, and noise bands owe it to themselves to check out their primary source: AMM.


Formed: 1965

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s

Usually a trio of drummer Eddie Prévost, saxophonist Lou Gare and guitarist Keith Rowe, AMM has explored the minimalist fringe of avant-garde chance operations and improvisational jazz since its inception in 1965. The group debuted with AMMMusic in 1967, and released two additional albums during the late '60s. Much more quiet during the following decade, AMM became jazz-oriented for a brief period when only Prévost and Gare remained. The addition of composer Cornelius Cardew, and frequent classical...
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AMMMusic 1966, AMM
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